“I don’t believe in charity, I believe in solidarity. It respects the other person. I have a lot to learn from other people.” -Eduardo Galeano
I do not think that this was a meaningful experience for me because I hadn’t made the effort to go back and visit my family after the first home stay, so it was much like having to recreate connections. Also, it was a very short visit which made me feel like I was only doing it to check one other box on my Triveni requirements.
I had to deal with being an outsider in the first home stay and every other day that I’ve spent in India when I can’t quite connect with people. Either due to a language barrier or them just looking down at me for reasons that I cannot yet put into words. Which has raised questions about empathy and why it’s so important? We are entirely different human beings, with different experiences and roads to travel, yet we insist on reaching some sort of understanding. I remember this quote I read in To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee, “You never really know a person until you step into his skin and walk around it.” I may never be able to understand what it means to be an Indian living in India, or an Indian villager in Mulshi valley but that’s okay because it’s this gap that has given me a greater sense of awareness about who I am.
It is these sort of interactions that help me realize and confirm my identity, and I think that’s important.
However, this is not say that I did not enjoy or in the very least make an effort in connecting with other inhabitants of Mulshi valley apart from MUWCI. This is something that I tried to do in Kriya in which I made an effort to understand the local context through Kriya Iron where I had to do significant research about the causes and existing initiatives in combating iron-deficiency related anemia; as well as through Kriya Shivaji’s swimming in which I joined Marathi for beginners so that I could at least try to understand the language. There were moments of success in which I felt a sense of understanding with some of the Kriya girls, these moments are rare yet treasured because I realize that to them I’m the outsider. I should be making an even greater effort to connect with the local community, because there’s just so much that I can learn.